Perfect for Sharing: Modern Mexican Street Food and Cocktails at Cocina Condesa

When I hear that a new tapas restaurant has opened, I’m automatically intrigued. Small plates allow me to try more than I would with a single entree. For me, it’s also a regular reminder that people in many cultures outside of the United States frequently get together and share food in this manner.

z_signI recently visited Cocina Condesa in Studio City. They are located on Ventura Blvd just east of a bustling shopping center at Laurel Canyon Blvd. Due to the use of roll-up doors, Cocina Condesa features covered al fresco dining. Effective use of color, distressed wood and brass gave the restaurant an upscale Mexico City cantina vibe.

z_insideWhat immediately brought me back to LA was the fact that the Dodgers were playing on the big screens above the bar. Since I don’t have the ability to watch them at home, I made a mental note that this could be a fun place to go with a group of friends and catch a Dodgers game.
Cocina Condesa describes their food as “Mexican street fare” and everything on their menu is scratch made. Healthy ingredients are emphasized; black beans instead of refried pinto beans. Quinoa and kale are also ingredients in some of their side dishes.

Citrus marinated skirt steak, drizzled with tomatillo avocado salsa

Citrus marinated skirt steak, drizzled with tomatillo avocado salsa

Executive Chef M. Elena Vega modestly mentioned she uses her grandmother’s recipes. That may be the case, but Vega modified the ingredients to make a more modern menu and with less fat. The carne asada on the tacos had a super crisp finish and almost no fat.

A traditional Mexican sope is about 4-5 inches in diameter and because it is made from masa and usually thicker than a tortilla and it can be quite filling. The mini sopes offered at Cocina Condesa offered the same culinary experience but due to their size, they are meant for sharing. They were topped with carnitas, black beans, chipotle crema and pickled red onion.

corn masa crepas

corn masa crepas: corn, squash, caramelized onions, roasted poblano cream sauce, topped with zucchini flowers

Crepas is an entree consisting of crepes made from corn masa, corn, squash, caramelized onions, roasted poblano cream sauce and topped with zucchini flowers. Since the crepas were made with masa, they were slightly heavier than French crepes. Think of this as a lighter version of a vegetarian empanada. The flavors worked extremely well together and I didn’t miss the fact that they didn’t contain any meat.

flan with pineapple fluff and fresh strawberries

flan with pineapple fluff and fresh strawberries

While I was stuffed, I managed to enjoy their unique flan. Vega described it as “whisky infused with pineapple fluff”. It was topped with fresh strawberries. Unlike traditional flan that uses eggs as the key ingredient, Cocina Condesa uses cream cheese and to create a thicker and smoother base.

Agave spirits expert, Gilbert Marquez, is the curator of their Mezcaleria. Overseeing a cocktails list that focuses heavily on Mezcals, Marquez emphasizes the creation of Latin cocktails containing fresh ingredients that pair well with their food.

Their drink menu is categorized by type, strength and machismo. Whether the latter was the intent of Marquez, that was the way I interpreted it when one of the drink categories was titled “Pocos pero locos”.  Gotta love his sense of humor. You can search on the phrase yourself if you don’t know what it means.

Condesa Margarita

Condesa Margarita

Cotel Al Pastor

Cotel Al Pastor – Mescal, Achiote, pineapple, lemon and al pastor seasoning

In addition to pocos pero locos, the other categories include micheladas, premium mezcal (one of the brand names is “Illegal”), tequila, fuertes (intense flavor), refrescante (refreshing). In addition, flights of premium tequila and mezcal are available.

They have an outstanding Hora Feliz or better known as Happy Hour from (3:00pm – 6:30pm). An ample amount of offerings from their main menu are available including some of their craft cocktails and what caught my eye: the mole chicken enchilada.

Taco Tuesday features any 2 tacos for $5 and on Monday, you can purchase any of their Mezcals at 50% off the regular price!

Cocina Condesa is a terrific find. It combines the visions of both a talented chef and a great mixologist. If you’re not coming from the Valley, I recommend visiting them on the weekend so that you can minimize traffic. Bring some friends as tapas are meant to be shared!

* Items mentioned in this article were provided on a complimentary basis for the purpose of this review. This story was accurate when it was published and reflects the uninfluenced opinion of the reviewer.


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Follow Bryan on twitter for the latest and greatest in food trucks and street food. @btsunoda.

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